Preparation is key

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Behavior experts say that it takes 21 days to change a habit; who’s got that kind of time? If you’ve resolved to live a more balanced, happier life this year, perhaps setting one new rule each week will give you a jump start. You can begin tomorrow, or even right now, by trying just one rule.

Psychologists call these rules “second-order decisions”— decisions we make in advance for our own good. Over time, you’ll find that you won’t need these rules because they’ve become habits. Habits to happiness.

Here are some rules that may improve your life and your level of happiness:

  • Make rest and nourishment a priority.  Go to sleep at a decent hour and don’t let yourself get too hungry.  These 2 factors are proven to have a real impact on happiness.  New rule: in bed by 10.
  • Smile at people who pass within 10 feet of you, and say hello to anyone within five feet.  Simply connecting with people sends a positive message to your brain that’s beneficial both immediately and in the long run: Strong social support has been shown to be the greatest predictor of long-term happiness.
  • Any time you’re faced with a task that will take less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately.  Less on the to-do list results in less stress; more happiness.
  • When you can’t decide; ask yourself, “Would anything terrible happen if I didn’t do this?” If the answer is “no,” then don’t do it. Perfectionists expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they’re often anxious about their choices. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
  • Start every conversation with something positive.   Research shows that how we begin a conversation is predictive of how well it turns out.
  • Name one thing, person, or situation each day that make you want to give thanks.  People who express gratitude are happier, more successful, and feel healthier. Plus, habits like giving thanks to others help shut out stress and negativity from the outside world by helping you view your life more positively.
  • Exercise each day.  Exercise is one of the most dependable mood-boosters. Even a 10-minute walk can brighten your outlook.
  • Control with compassion.  Try to identify what’s happening when you are faced with that out of control driver, grumpy colleague, or irritated partner.  You’ll be more likely to send positive vibes their way and it’ll be less likely that person will be able to influence your mood.